Why vegan, you ask? Because it's a matter of justice

Mike is awe-stricken by his friend, Rueben Roo from Madison, WI.  Please follow Mr. Roo on Facebook :)It's the bare-bones, basic right of non-human animals not to be used, abused, murdered, commodified for human interests, selfishness, greed and convenience.  That's it.  It's the idea that as a matter of principle, they are entitled to a life of freedom and peace, just like we want for ourselves.  Let's try to make sense of this.
Ok, so we've all seen the shocking pictures of abused animals and the horrible videos of behind-the-scenes footage of what really goes on in the slaughterhouses.  At times these images are too hard to witness, but why?  Perhaps it's time we all started to rethink how we perceive animals and their right to live natural and peaceful lives alongside us. 
All across the globe, it is estimated that twenty billion animals die by human hands each year.  Many of these animals were bred into existence, via human interference, only to be killed usually before the tender age of 2.   Most lived in the worst conditions and endured unimaginable pain and suffering. They were killed in the name of food, clothing and cosmetics production, entertainment, scientific experimentation, etc.  It begs the questions, are animals things for us to use in this way?  Are there ways for us to prosper in our own human lives without causing so much devastation? The answers are "no" and "yes", respectively.  
First of all, it is the consensus of the scientific community that animals are sentient: that they have an awareness that allows them to experience emotions and sensations like joy, fear and pain, much in the same manner that humans do.  We are learning that animals have a much more complex cognitive and emotional life than we previously believed.  An animal is someone.  If they experience life like us, then it should be easy for us to understand that it is awful and unfair to exist in a world where someone is regarded as nothing more than a commodity, where you were brought to this world only to be subjected to suffering and death.  They certainly don't want to be used by us; it would be obtuse to believe that they do.  Concepts like "humane" slaughter and "free-range" farms are human constructs designed to deceive the masses and dissolve the guilt that humans should feel for their participation in the atrocities.
At some level, while you may have never delved so deeply into these thoughts, there is something that, on its face, makes you feel uncomfortable when you see the harsh images of their reality.  If we are unable to make any other emotional connection to animals, we can at least appreciate that we, ourselves, would not want to be used by anyone for any reason, much less abused and murdered.  As obvious as that sounds, somehow we've become conditioned to believe that doing this to someone else is ok.
Knowing the truth about what humans do to them should make us feel raw and horrible.  We should feel guilt, and we need to own the fact that we are directly responsible for the situation in which they find themselves.  If we can accept that they are "someones", we unequivocally owe them a basic standard of decency and respect because anything less would be wrong.  At the very least, we have a moral obligation not to exploit others for our own purposes.  If you believe in the Golden Rule, then this will probably make sense to you.  
Taste, culture, and convenience are not good enough reasons to exploit someone.  On top of all of this, animal agriculture continues to cause irreversible damage to our environment.  That's a topic for another post, but it's worth noting here nonetheless.
People all across the globe are leading the way in demonstrating that it is possible to thrive without the consumption or use of animals.  For those concerned as to the impact of a vegan diet on health, various health organizations, including the American Dietetics Association, have stated that people on a well-planned vegan diet can achieve adequate nutrition and optimal healthful.  Via the internet and social media, it is easier than ever to connect with others who live a vibrant vegan lifestyle.  We've come across vegan medical doctors, dietitians, body builders, world-class athletes, psychologists, and chefs, most of whom are eager to provide guidance or their professional services to help you chieve your goal of living a happy and healthy vegan life.